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Allegiance to the Constitution

National | Three of every four cases passing from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court were overturned last term-and court watchers expect the Supremes to slap down the nation's most-reversed circuit again if the justices take up the Pledge of Allegiance appeal.

Issue: "Weapons of mass hysteria," March 15, 2003

Three of every four cases passing from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court were overturned last term-and court watchers expect the Supremes to slap down the nation's most-reversed circuit again if the justices take up the Pledge of Allegiance appeal.

On March 5, the California school district at the center of the fight over the Pledge of Allegiance announced that it will ask the high court to overturn a ruling that bars recitation of the pledge in classrooms in nine Western states. The Elk Grove Unified School District also won a 90-stay of the ruling pending its appeal; pupils can continue to say the pledge for now.

A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2 to 1 last summer that the phrase "under God" renders the pledge unconstitutional because it establishes a religion. The bitterly divided full court last month refused 15 to 9 to reconsider the decision. Six of the dissenters said if recitation of the pledge constitutes an impermissible religious act in school, then so should the recitation of the Declaration of Independence and other historic national documents that contain references to God.

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The case arose when atheist Michael Newdow sued Elk Grove, alleging the pledge violated his daughter's right to be free from government endorsement of religion. His ex-wife, who had custody of the girl, now 8, said she and her daughter had no problem with the pledge. The court rejected her bid to have the girl's name dropped from the suit.

Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman

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